Public actors in new spaces: A case study of digital Malaysia in transnational public deliberation

  • Sara Chinnasamy Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia
  • Ingrid Volkmer University of Melbourne, Australia
Keywords: alternative news, case study, civil society, digital media, direct democracy, gatekeeping, Malaysia, news portals, political communication, public sphere, social media


This article examines the role of new transnational public actors and their influence on public deliberation processes in Malaysia. Malaysia is one of the world’s most social media-connected countries where online platforms greatly influence the Malaysian public sphere. Our study suggests considering digital news portals as specific ‘public actors’ since they enable new political debates in an otherwise fragile national public sphere. While national media are controlled by the state, digital news portals offer not only an alternative news perspective but are a stage for a diversity of voices. Furthermore, they link the Malaysian civic discourse to transnational political debates, such as human rights and ethnic interests. Results from eight in-depth semi-structured interviews with news journalists and editors of traditional media and independent digital news portals provide insights into their perceptions concerning the implications of digital news portals for new aspects of public discourse in Malaysia.


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Author Biographies

Sara Chinnasamy, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia

An Associate Professor at the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, University of Technology Mara, Malaysia since 2004. Obtained PhD in New Media & Politics from the University of Adelaide, Australia and Post-Doctoral Research Fellow from Media & Communication, University of Melbourne. Currently, one of the founding members of Global Risk Journalism Hub.

Ingrid Volkmer, University of Melbourne, Australia

Professor of Digital Communication and Globalisation, School of Culture and Communication , Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne. Director and Founder of Global Risk Journalism Hub. Her field of expertise is globalized digital communication and International digital policy. Her publications include The Global Public Sphere. Public Communication in the Age of Reflective Interdependence (Polity, 2014) and ‘The transnationalization of public spheres and public policy’, The Oxford Handbook of Global Policy and Transnational Administration (eds Stone, Diane and Moloney, Kim), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019


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How to Cite
Chinnasamy, S., & Volkmer, I. (2023). Public actors in new spaces: A case study of digital Malaysia in transnational public deliberation. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 29(1 & 2), 136-152.